Salt Lake Tribune blogger Rosemary Winters reports that a prominent Salt Lake gay activist, Eric Ethington, has organized a protest against LDS Apostle Boyd Packer’s "Cleansing The Inner Temple" Conference speech, to take place on Thursday October 7th, 2010. Participants are asked to meet at Salt Lake City’s City Creek Park, 102 N. State St., at 7 p.m. and wear black. The group plans to march to the LDS Church Office Building nearby. Civil disobedience is possible since they are contemplating lying on the ground.
This is just one part of the backlash that has erupted in the wake of President Packer's speech. Nationally, the deceptively-named Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which is actually concerned only with gay rights, has weighed in, issuing a statement characterizing Packer's remarks as "inaccurate and dangerous", and demanding that he "correct" them. HRC presumes to think they're closer to the Lord than one of His apostles. Human Rights Campaign is also infamous for grading different corporations on their gay-friendliness and computes a Corporate Equality Index in which the maximum grade is 100. You can download the full 100-page 2011 report HERE. Their judgment criteria consists of a complex and Byzantine system of "soft" and "hard" benefits and policies for gays. To avoid unnecessarily empowering HRC and giving them undeserved credibility, the idea here is to attempt to avoid patronizing corporate entities with high scores, if it is possible to do so.
Thanks to the Provo Daily Herald, we have the complete version of President Packer's talk, in two videos, so you can decide for yourself if his counsel was "hate" or truth. The Tribune's story about the speech has attracted 3,216 comments, with no end in sight. A complete written transcript is not yet available from the LDS website, but an excerpt of what is considered the most inflammatory part is posted on MainStreetPlaza.
The LDS community has become divided by the speech. Carol Lynn Pearson, a Mormon writer in northern California who has worked to make gays feel welcome in the LDS Church, complained that President Packer’s approach seemed so different from the style of Elder Marlin Jensen, LDS Church historian and member of the First Quorum of Seventy, who, while on assignment last month, listened and wept with gay and lesbian members in a special meeting following a stake conference in Oakland, California. In that meeting, Elder Jensen reportedly said "To the [extent that] it’s within my power to apologize, I want to tell you that I am sorry. I am very sorry." He was delivering a personal apology for the effects of the Proposition 8 campaign, and not speaking officially for the Church. But perhaps Pearson and other critics thought the First Presidency would follow up with a similar statement at Conference. Criticism of President Packer reached hysterical proportions on the Feminist Mormon Housewives blog. Another critic is Jana Riess in her aptly-named Flunking Sainthood column.
On the other hand, President Packer had his defenders. LDS spokesman Scott Trotter emphasized Monday that the apostle’s speech was consistent with the church’s longtime position. “The [LDS] Church’s doctrine on the importance of marriage and family and its implications for same-gender marriage are very clear,” Trotter said in a statement, “and are based on principles of truth, respect and love for all of God’s children.” Moreover, he said, “We have continually emphasized that there is no room in this discussion for hatred or mistreatment of anyone.” In a nutshell, the LDS Church's position is that homosexual orientation is O.K., but homosexual practice is actionable.
Others defending President Packer include David Pruden, the president of Evergreen International, a nonprofit group that helps Mormons overcome gay behavior and diminish same-sex attraction. Pruden dismissed the idea that Packer’s comments about gays overcoming their attractions would lead to more suicides, explaining that the LDS Church —- and Packer —- are simply telling members to live the standards of the Church. Another articulate voice supporting Packer was Utah County blogger Connor Boyack, who unequivocally condemned the hysteria against Packer by saying that "If such advocacy groups are concerned about the harm Packer’s remarks will have in the LDS/LGBT relations, they need only look inward, for it is they who have blatantly and unapologetically lied. They have egregiously claimed that Packer will be responsible for the suicides of struggling individuals, and explicitly stated that his teachings were based on fear and hatred, and that he claims, essentially, that 'God hates fags'".
To expect the LDS Church to go against scripture (Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, and Romans 1:26-27) and sanction homosexual marriage without a revelation is ludicrous. If the Brethren took such action, they'd be unworthy of their positions. The current policy will remain in effect unless or until they receive a revelation permitting them to change the policy. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is run by revelation, not by e-mail campaigns or sit-ins.